"This is the spot."
Boman took a puff off his Virginia Slim. He would have preferred a more masculine cigarette, but a fourteen-year-old has to smoke what he can get.
Eight-year-old Devin watched the older boy exhale. The light breeze caught the smoke, dissipating it almost instantly. "Can I have a puff?"
"No! You'd lip it. You'd get the butt soggy."
"Hey, you wanted to see Sarah's Crossing. Well here it is."
Devin stepped out of the wood line. The long twin rails stretched in each direction endlessly. "I don't see nothing," Devin complained. There was a touch of disbelief in his voice.
Boman flicked his smoldering butt across the railroad tracks. It bounced off one of the large brown cross ties and settled on the ballast of chunky gravel. "She only comes out when there's a train. I told you that already." He sounded exasperated.
"Oh yeah, right. When's the next train due?"
"How should I know? Whatta' ya think I am, Grand Central Station?"
Devin had expected more, burning bushes, spooky lighting, or unexplained weather patterns. There was none of it. The landscape looked, smelled and felt perfectly ordinary. He was beginning to sense a rip-off. "Are you sure this is the spot?"
"What? You think I'm lying?" Boman was offended. He stuck out his chest and took a threatening step toward the younger boy.
"No," Devin answered, sensing trouble. He backed off. "I was just making sure."
"This is the spot. This is Sarah's Crossing all right. Now a deal's a deal. Pay up!"
Devin drew the wrinkled five-dollar bill from his front pocket. It seemed such a waste of money. He had expected more for his cash. Boman snatched the five from the younger boy's fingers. He wadded it up and tucked into a pocket of his own. With the money in hand, Boman relaxed. He picked up one of the larger gravels. It was baseball size, and he chucked it at a marker thirty feet down the track.
The rock fell short. Devin picked up a couple of his own, imitating the older boy's actions.
"How long ago was it?" Devin asked.
"What? You mean Sarah? Six years. She brought her brother down here one afternoon, telling him they were going on a picnic."
"Cause she was nuts," Boman explained.
"She wanted to kill herself?"
"Yea, but not just herself. Sarah was so screwed up and she hated her folks so much that she wanted to kill her younger brother too, just to spite them."
"What happened?" Devin asked, suddenly engrossed by the grizzly tale.
"Well, when a train's coming, you can feel it getting close. The ground shakes and the rails vibrate. Sarah grabbed her brother and dragged him up onto the tracks, here." Boman scampered up the gravel and stood just inside the rails. Devin followed.
"Did he die too?"
"Nope. He managed to wiggle out of her clasp just before the train mowed her under. She was still holding the back of his jacket when the engine nailed her."
"Now, when a train comes through, her ghost walks up and down these tracks looking for her brother."
"Man, don't you know anything? Her work ain't done. She can't cross over because she failed to kill her brother. Sarah's ghost will haunt these tracks until she does."
Devin fell silent, examining what he had heard. After a short pause, he concluded, "That's a load of bunk. There ain't no such things as ghosts."
A slight tremor began to vibrate the rails. It went unnoticed by Devin, but Boman had been anticipating it. He had been waiting for it. Casually, as the quaking grew, Boman slid off the gravel and backed away from the tracks.
Devin continued throwing rocks at the railroad marker. When he finally felt the earth shake beneath his sneakers, his face twisted up with a befuddled expression.
"There's a train coming," Devin reasoned. Excitement polished his words. "Do you think we'll see Sarah?"
"We might," Boman answered.
"Well, if she don't show, I want my five dollars back."
Boman nodded. He stepped back a few more feet, to just inside the line of trees.
"Where are you going?" Devin asked. He stood six feet above the older boy, perched like a bird on the edge of the cross-tie plank.
Boman stepped further back. He was almost completely concealed by the foliage.
"Bo!" Devin hollered. "Wait for me!" The younger boy took one step and hopped from the corner of the cross-tie. His feet never touched the ground. Instead, he fell backwards onto the track. A hand was clasping his shirt tail while another snaked across his chest.
The train was coming fast, cruising at seventy-plus miles an hour. Devin could plainly see the engine's safety rail and its coupling head bearing rapidly down on him. Its loudness grew exponentially, moaning, clanking and hissing as it approached.
A soothing voice whispered into Devin's ear. "Hold still."
Devin struggled to free himself, but Sarah secured him in her arms. Her cold fingers locked around his stomach and she squeezed. Sarah's ghost sat Indian style on the tracks. She pulled Devin back onto her lap and rocked him between the rails.
Again in Devin's ear she whispered, "I've been looking for you for so long. It will all be over soon."
Devin's scream was pounded under by the vast loudness of the passing train. The engine's cast iron pilot struck him just below the sternum dividing his body in half.
Boman watched no more. He turned and began to make his way back through the woods, muttering, "Rest in peace, Sis. Rest in peace."